Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Naming Our Son

Lately, a lot of people have been asking us about what we are going to name our son. The topic is interesting from a couple of perspectives.

In the first place, Leah and I have not really had the conversation yet. We have certainly talked about it, but not in any depth. It just feels different. While we discussed names we liked throughout both of Leah's pregnancy's with the girls, there is something about getting our referral, knowing who our son will be and getting to see his face that we feel needs to come before any real conversation about names. That seems weird to write, but I think it is where we are.

Secondly, and probably more important, is the issue of naming an adopted child in the first place. If we were adopting a brand new infant from his first days of life, then it would be one thing. However, we will likely be adopting a child who will be anywhere from 5 months to a year old when we get him. He will already have a name at this point, and depending on his circumstance, his name might be from his biological family or one given to him by an orphanage if he was abandoned. While I think we will feel differently about changing his name if it is a biological family name versus one just given to him by an orphanage, the idea of maintaining our son's Ethiopian culture through his name is a major consideration and a topic of much debate in the adoption community.

On one hand, changing his name from a foreign sounding, and possibly difficult to pronounce Ethiopian name to a more American sounding name, seems to make sense. On the other hand, stripping him of one of the true markers of his cultural heritage as an Ethiopian does not seem like the best thing to do.

As you can see, this is a sensitive and difficult topic to think about. However, when it is all said and done, I think we will likely end up somewhere in the middle. Depending on his familial background (if there is one to be known), we may keep his given name as a middle name and give him a more American sounding first name. If his name was just given to him by an orphanage, then I could see us picking an American sounding Ethiopian name in the hope of achieving a good balance.

So, the answer to the initial question is that we don't know yet. But, we are thinking and praying about it and look forward to sharing some more of our processing further down the road.

For more reading on the topic, I think this post and this post from an Ethiopian adoption blog we read are good summations of both sides of the debate over naming an adopted child. Also, if you want to give us some suggestions, here is a good list of Ethiopian boy names we might consider.


hpg said...

I don't have the depths of wisdom on this, and I have total confidence in the choice you make, but I think it would be a beautiful and powerful gift to allow your son to bear his heritage in his name somehow. I believe he would bear it well and proudly, even a very Ethiopian first name, because I know the strength he will be given from you his parents.

I acknowledge my bias as well that I think American names are pretty boring in general (recall in Clearwater that I was voted, "Most Likely to Renounce Her American Citizenship").

As I looked over the Ethiopian names, I grew more and more excited for you in his coming. I thought the Eth. names were so dignified and beautiful. My favorites, all of which go brilliantly with Carpenter if you ask me:

#1 - Bakele
#2 - Kinde
#3 - Elias
#4 - Kelile
#5 - Ayele

God bless your decision!

hpg said...

...And thanks so much for opening up about a sensitive but real issue like this. The question of how to engage difference is so central in our society (and world), it's amazing, and requires much of us because there are no easy answers. Thanks.

graceling said...

I love the names Addis, Elias, Kaleb, and Yared! Having spent the past several months looking at girls names, it was fun to really examine the boys names:)

the albertsons said...

You know what my favorites are :). We'll keep that a secret for now, but I also LOVE Elias and Yared and Mussie and Kelile (and really all of them).
love you guys...
(can't wait for you to get that golden ticket (cis...)!)

KCG said...

Well, I wish my parents had spent as much time thinking about his as you have. I wish there had been some blog advice guiding my 'rents away from "Kenneth" - the name of every movie nerd.

Names matter. You are right to be thinking about this.

Farmboy and Buttercup said...

We have been questioning the name thing ourselves. We got our referral a few weeks ago, and have been calling them by their given names since then, so we just may keep those names. I think we got really lucky, though, their names are Jambo and Kume, and though different, they aren't too difficult.

I think we have decided to give them American first names, but call them by their Ethiopian names (which will be the middle names), and at a later time, if they choose, they can use their American first names if they want. We also thought of calling them both names for a while, to help them make a connection, like Tessa Kume and Trey Jambo.

Good luck

Stacy said...

I wonder what Ethiopian immigrants do when they come to America? Do they rename their children? I think how a child ultimately feels about his name is the reverence and joy with which his parent's themselves hold it and the pride they instill. Americans might be too concerned with wiping away difference rather than upholding what is at once special, personal, and normal; a child's name.

But I also think that it is very special when parents choose and bequeath additional names to their children that are special or have some significance to them.

I don't think that the names of toddlers and upwards in age should be changed at all.

Finally, there is no such thing really, as an American name. Americans bear the names of the world.